San Diego State moves on from March Madness underdog status: ‘We’re special’

HOUSTON – Go ahead and challenge San Diego State.

Tell the fifth-seeded Aztecs they don’t stand a chance.

On Monday night, the netting of No. 4 Connecticut is a formality.

They’ve heard it all before.

An upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was a popular choice.

Not even Alabama or Creighton were to be passed.

They are still standing.

“I think every game we’ve played we’ve been shut out,” leading scorer Matt Bradley said Sunday. “That’s just the makeup we have. I don’t know what attracts that. We proceed from there. March Madness has proven that anyone can win regardless of what people think or what the numbers say.”

Matt Bradley of the Aztecs dribbles the ball against Bryan Greenlee of the Florida Atlantic Owls in the Final Four.USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

San Diego State (32-6) has had several close calls to get to this point, winning four of its five championships by seven points or fewer.

The Aztecs trailed No. 9 Florida Atlantic by 14 points in the second half Saturday.

He needed Lamont Butler’s buzzer-beating jumper to advance to the school’s first national championship game.

Now, the Aztecs are the other team on Monday night, a 7.5-point underdog against powerhouse UConn.

The Huskies haven’t broken a sweat yet, winning five games by an average of 20.6 points.

He seems invincible, absolutely dominant.

But San Diego State has no fear of Connecticut (30-8).

San Diego State guard Lamont Butler's winning shot during the Final Four at Florida Atlantic.San Diego State guard Lamont Butler’s winning shot during the Final Four at Florida Atlantic.AP

He believes he can shock the world and upset the Huskies, hang with them in the paint, slow down the pace and impose his will.

They are an elite defensive team that ranks fourth nationally in efficiency.

“We feel like we’re not like a lot of teams in the championship. We’re special,” senior guard Darrion Trammell said. “We will play defense as if our lives depended on it. That’s our whole motto. We feel that our chip (on our shoulder) is bigger than many people in the country. We will have to leave that show on Monday.”

It’s an experienced team, some might say old, with seven seniors in a nine-man rotation.

San Diego State guard Lamont Butler, center, celebrates with his teammates after scoring a game-winning drive against Florida Atlantic.San Diego State guard Lamont Butler, center, celebrates with his teammates after scoring a game-winning drive against Florida Atlantic.AP

Four of them are in their fifth season.

They’re the team that stunned Alabama, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, and they’re used to winning close games.

He is 10-1 in games decided by five points or less.

He might not win, but San Diego State won’t push him.

He will not be disturbed at the moment. He thinks it belongs to that stage.

“We are not satisfied. When you keep winning these games, you want one more, one more, one more, and I think that’s been the mentality for us,” Bradley said. “We always want to get that next game. We have a lot of seniors on this team. This is my last college game, win or lose. I don’t want to lose, and I think that’s the feeling of many guys in the team.’

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